Herbs are plants with leaves, seeds or flowers that are used as food, medicine or perfume. Botanically herbs are seed bearing plants that don’t have woody stems and they die to the ground after flowering.
They have been used since time immemorial to treat lots of diseases, historical facts and holy books bear witness to that.
In this article, we will be looking at the therapeutic/medicinal value of herbs generally then in subsequent articles, we will look at individual herbs and the functions they perform in the body.
Herbs are used to add taste and aroma to foods, but their function goes beyond that; when used for medicinal purposes, they can treat, cure and prevent almost any disease we know today or alleviate the symptoms of some of the diseases.
Their actions are so potent that some researches have proved that ginger and turmeric reduces pain than most pain relieving drugs we have now.
- They are rich sources of anti-oxidant: Anti-oxidants are compounds that fight oxidative stress and the activities of free radicals in the body, when these is not checked or prevented, rapid aging and other health issues sets in. so regular intake of herbs supplies the body with anti-oxidant benefits and prevent many chronic diseases from occurring.
- They are very rich sources of phytochemicals: A wise woman once said that “phytochemicals are gift to humanity from the plant world” and this is true because studies have proved the healing powers of phytochemicals and drugs are being made now by creating synthetic phytochemicals. Phytochemicals like flavonoids are said to fight cancer cells and prevent it from even happening in the first place.
- They prevent cancer: Since ancient times, traditional Chinese healers have used herbs to treat cancer and its symptoms; herbs like ginger even help to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy. Many studies have proved the ability of medicinal herbs to destroy most types of cancer and regular intake prevents the formation of cancer cells in the body. Turmeric even blocks the supply of blood to cancer cells. They purify the blood, prevents mutations which can lead to cancer and they flush out waste and toxins from the body because accumulation of these can also lead to cancer. Ginger, turmeric, aloe vera (this plant is smarter than most cancer drug, it only kills cancerous cells while chemotherapy and other cancer drugs kill all the body cells), lemon and limes (due to high vitamin C content), etc.
- They provide essential oils: Essential oils from herbs and plants have very anti-inflammatory effects, they fight infections, reduce symptoms and boosts immune function. Essential oils fight inflammation by inhibiting COX (cyclooxygenase), an enzyme that mediate inflammatory reactions in the body; this makes essential oils potent in treating and alleviating symptoms of arthritis and other diseases that are caused by inflammation. Essential oils are also used to lift moods, fight colds and flus and to scent the house. Examples are ginger essential oil, lemon grass essential oil, lavender and rosemary essential oils.
- They protect the skin: Regular intake of herb helps our skin which is the first layer of our immune system and the largest organ in the body to be healthy. For ages, women have used herbs to herbs to beautify themselves, look younger and get a brighter and radiant complexion. Herbs for skin care are aloe vera, neem, turmeric, ginger, holy basil, mint, tea tree and Moringa.
- They prevent malnutrition: Regular intake of herbs supplies the body with many trace minerals and vitamins, phytochemicals, phytosterols and plant derived nutrients and this will make the body to be rich in all these thereby preventing nutritional deficiencies which can lead to sicknesses and death.
- They reduce sugar and cholesterol levels in the body: Herbs have powerful effect on the pan crease and they do the work better than most drugs and they give no side effect. They can also reduce blood pressure and thereby prevent many chronic diseases. Examples of such herbs are ginger, garlic, turmeric and Moringa.
- They strengthen the immune system: They help in strengthening the immune system and boosting its function because they are rich in essential oils, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, phytosterols, antioxidants and other phyto chemicals which the body uses to fortify itself against toxins, germs and diseases. Ginger, turmeric, garlic, goldenseal, elderberry, hibiscus, onion and cinnamon.
- They can be used as cheaper and alternative medicine: Herbs cheap natural cures with no side effects; studies have also proved them more potent than most over-the-counter drugs and they can also be used in cases of medical emergencies.
- Oral care: Herbal toothpaste are now everywhere in the market because of the tremendous oral benefits and they have no harmful chemicals that cause problems in the body. They can whiten teeth without destroying the enamel, they fight mouth odour and bleeding gums, remove stains from teeth, prevent and cure tooth ache and decay, fights bad breath and prevents infections due to bacterial. Herbs for oral/dental hygiene are mint, aloe vera, sage, strawberry, lavender, parsley, and thyme.
- They fight inflammation: Herbs are powerful in fighting inflammation which is behind many chronic diseases. Ginger is a very powerful fighter against inflammation.
- They boost brain functions: Herbs helps the brain to function properly and they also prevent many brain related diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Ginkgo, ginger and ginseng are good for this.
- Boosts healthy hair growth: Herbs are good for mega hair growth and that is why they are being put into many hair care products these days; they prevent drying, splitting, breaking and hair loss. Herbs for hair care are jojoba oil, marigold, lemon juice, aloe vera, fenugreek and horsetail.
- Boost fertility: Herbs helps to regulate the production of hormones including sex hormones, they can increase sex drive, prevent reproductive problems and promote healthy functioning of the reproductive system. Herbs like ginger, milk thistle, mother worth, red raspberry, red clover and nettles.
Many people are afraid of taking herbs in the name of “side effects”, “natural things are dangerous” and all those jargons I hear every day that makes me marvel at them.
These same people can take more than one can of soft drink a day, they take lots of sugar and eat sugary and junk foods but they are not afraid of those ones that will cause harm and send them to an early grave.
Herbs cannot harm your body even if taken in excess, because in the first place they were created as food for man; they contain many nutrients but there are in very little quantity, that is why you can never get vitamin and mineral overload by eating herbs, fruits and vegetables.
Your body has many daily nutritional needs, repairs to do every day and infections to fight which will require daily intake of herbs.
Every day toxins enter your body through what you eat and drink, what you apply on your skin, breathing in contaminated air, makeup products, electromagnetic radiations from telephone masts, cell phones and laptops, you come in contact with viruses, bacteria and fungi every day, you don’t know because they cannot be seen with the eyes, every second your body is either repairing or creating new cells, so why should daily intake of herbs be a thing to be scared of while the above mentioned points don’t even make some to raise their eyebrows.
I think the main cause for this is ignorance. Herbs have no side effect and there is nothing like overtaking it especially in our world today where everything is designed to kill one; from stress to what we eat, apply on our skin, drink and even when you are in the comfort of your home, you are surrounded by harmful electromagnetic radiation.
The only time herb should be discouraged and might cause problem is when one is on medication; in that case a doctor needs to be contacted to know if it is safe to take a particular herb along with the drug.
But in most cases this is not advised and allowed by medical doctors due to drug herb interaction. When taking blood thinners and aspirin, it is not advisable to take herbs like ginger and garlic, because they do the same work and that can lead to more serious problems.
So if you are on any medication, do not take herb till you are done with taking it, then you can start including herbs and herbal teas in your diet to remove toxins (by-products of the drugs), to help your body heal faster and to restore your body to its normal metabolism.
Pregnant women who are on medications should also avoid herbs. A week before surgery, herbs should also be avoided.
Common ways to use herbs
This is the most potent way to use herbs for medicinal purposes; they are very concentrated in phytochemicals and other phytonutrients. They can be taken orally, applied topically, inhaled and added to bath water.
For sensitive skin and to avoid toxicity, it is advised to mix essential oil with carrier oils like coconut, olive or jojoba oils. Consult with a well-trained herbalist to know if an essential oil can be taken orally and do not combine them with drugs to avoid drug-herb interaction.
This is another way to take herbs for medicinal purposes; in this method, the active ingredients only are extracted, quantified and packaged as a drug; let it be prescribed by a doctor and follow prescription to avoid issues.
This is how I take my herbs, I start my day every day by taking a cup of ginger and lemon tea, and this has helped me greatly, it reduced the rate of frequent illness, increased my energy, stopped menstrual cramps and made my skin beautiful.
Other teas to start your day with are lemon and honey, peppermint and cinnamon herbal teas. When on medication, consult with a doctor if it safe to take herbal teas.
Herbs are also good as spice, they add unique taste and aroma to foods; adding herbs generously to your meals is also another way to take herbs as medicine. Ginger, garlic, turmeric and cinnamon are common spices that are added to foods.